Perfect storm ahead for Australia mining?

Jan. 3, 2012 at 12:25 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Australia's mining sector faces a "perfect storm" of challenges for 2012, a new report says.

Global consulting firm Deloitte in "Tracking the Trends 2012" questioned whether Australia was at the peak of a resources bubble that would soon burst.

The report cited increasing costs and tightening credit as some of the challenges facing miners, along with continuous rises in the cost of doing business, unprecedented commodity price volatility and an ever-tightening regulatory environment.

The mining sector is facing a perfect storm of converging global forces," Tim Richards, head of Australian Mining for Deloitte, said in a release.

New capital expenditure on mining in the country during 2011-12 is forecast to top $80 billion, compared with $47 billion in 2010-11, official statistics indicate. There are more than 100 mining projects in advanced stages of development.

Overall, Australia's commodities exports are expected to increase 15 percent to $205.8 billion for 2011-12, boosted by iron ore, coal, oil gas and gold.

Deloitte pointed to a shift in financing sources for the mining industry as a growing number of Australian miners consider private equity, sovereign wealth funds and hedge funds. The report also noted that companies were increasing their cash reserves.

Miners should improve collaboration to face the uncertain environment and "band together through more formal associations," the report suggests.

Speaking to the Australian Broadcasting Corp., Richards warned that challenges facing Australia's miners, particularly global economic uncertainty, could result in some projects grinding to a halt, while others might never get beyond the planning stage.

"I think that's a real possibility for some projects, depending on the economics of those projects," Richards said.

The volatility of commodity prices in particular poses a threat to new projects.

"Traditionally you would work a 5- to 10-percent sensitivity around those commodity price assumptions but their volatility could mean companies should be factoring in a 30 to 40 percent buffer."

Australia, the world's largest exporter of coal and iron ore, should also export its mining expertise to emerging mining destinations such as South America in order to remain globally competitive, said Australia's resources envoy Peter Beattie.

"We have the best skills in the world," Beattie told The Australian newspaper. "If we position ourselves effectively … we'll be selling our technical skills into these new emerging markets in Latin America and we'll be doing huge business in those countries."

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